The Ivano-Frankivsk congregation is small, around 12 attending on a regular Sunday, and has been meeting in a classroom of a business school (The church does have an actual building, sort of, maybe I will post that story when I get home). When these facts are made known, it makes the numbers for VBS even more miraculous. We had 58 children attend, starting with 30 the first day. Over the course of the 8 days, over half of the kids brought at least 1 friend. Once a child had come, it was extremely likely that they continued to return for the rest of the week. I had 16 individual kids come with 10-12 attending regularly by the 4th day. That number would be +1, but one of my boys, Ivan, had to go on vacation to the Black Sea with his family. I have no doubt that this also brought down our already hefty numbers, because we are on the very beginning on what is pretty much national vacation time for Ukrainians. I'm talking whole factories shutting down for 2 weeks.
To say my last day of VBS was bittersweet is an understatement. Everyday I had opened with a review of the previous lesson, with each lesson building on theological concepts, ultimately cumulating with the complete Christian faith. Today, every single one of my questions on the board was on key beliefs, and I can honestly say each and every one of my kids knew and understood them, what is in the heart is out of my control. Their answer for one question particularly amazed me. "What two things are necessary to receive salvation?" Every single hand in the class went up, so I motioned for everyone together. In nearly perfect unison they said: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned". Mark 16:16 was one of the verses I chosen for memory work. I gave out Chupa Chups, which are a really popular lollipop type candy over here, as a bit of an incentive when they were able to recite their memory work for the day. There answer blew me away, but was also humorous because they answered my next question too. "Without this, and if Jesus had not fulfilled the 3 things necessary in his life to provide forgiveness of sins (this had been a previous question, with the answer being "lived perfectly, died innocently, and rose victoriously"), what would be the result?" So after they told me "condemnation in hell", I said that they are "Too smart" and we all had a good laugh.
The end of class was not filled with quite as much laughter. After I handed out the final prizes, which were the focal point of a game we had been playing over the course of the last couple days to practice their English vocabulary, I handed out my postcards with personal notes to each of the kids. They all asked Pastor Romanuik to translate my messages for them, which is something I wasn't exactly counting on, and it got pretty emotional, but we don't need to talk anymore about that. :)
I just got back from the closing service with the children's concert and we had an amazing turn out. We used the larger room (meant for no more then 30) that we had for VBS and we crammed 84 people in. If this had been America, the fire marshal would be disappointed to say the least. All of the kids in my regular group, except two who are on vacation, showed up. I don't mean to sound selfish but I thank God for this because I was able to say one final good bye. To think I said that our previous goodbye was emotional. (I think I will try and do a post about each of my kids, with pictures of course, when I get back to Oregon.) I thought it was odd how attached some of the kids who were in the other classes, that I rarely interacted, got to me, and visa versa.
I will definitely miss all of my kids very much as well as the missionaries Bill and Faith Krug, who I have been staying with. On top of this I have grown pretty close to Pastor Romanuik and his kids; it will be very hard leaving them as well. But as I always say, humans are an extremely resilient kind. It may be hard now, but life will go on to wherever God leads me next, and I will definitely appreciate all the memories I have made in Ukraine. I will update you on my last day in Kiev, my journey home, and of course any reflection on the trip in general that I have when I get back to Oregon. If you want something to look forward to, :) I will be working on a way to get lots of pictures online.
Pray for a safe trip home if you don't mind. Maybe I will be talking to you soon, no? (Here's a practice SAT exam question for you: "no" is to Ukrainians as "eh" is to Canadians. The funny thing is, I am already starting to put a "no?" at the end of my thoughts, even when they are still in my head)
God is Great!
P.S. Not that it really makes any difference, but I just realized that it is saying I am posting my blogs 10 hours EARLIER then when I actually am posting them. It was set for Pacific Time. I have done most of my writing, and jumping online to post them, either late at night or early in the morning.